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Internally Developed Departmental Exit Exams V/S Externally Normed Assessment Tests: What We Found

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Assessment Methods

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.817.1 - 11.817.6



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Paper Authors


Virendra Varma Missouri Western State University

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Virendra K. Varma, PhD, PE, F.ASCE, is Professor of construction and Chairman of the Department of Engineering Technology at Missouri Western State University. He served as a Member of the TAC/ABET Commission from 1998-2003. He is a former President of ACI-Missouri, and a former President of the NW Chapter of MSPE (of NSPE). He has published and presented extensively. He is the Chair of the Construction Engineering Division of ASEE. He has held highly responsible roles in design and construction industry ranging from a project engineer/manager to a partner. He is an Instructor of ATC-20 course on Structural Assessment of Vertical Structures.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Internally-Developed Departmental Exit Exams v/s Externally-Normed Assessment Tests: What We Found


Prior to 1995, the Department of Engineering Technology at Missouri Western State University was engaged in the exit testing of its graduating students using the in-house developed exit exams, and reviewed by faculty from a neighboring university, to assess the content knowledge of its students. The system worked fine but in the mid 1990s with emphasis being placed on outcomes assessment using externally-normed tests such as FE/EIT, Missouri Western also adopted externally-normed tests such as AIC (American Institute of Constructors), NICET (National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies), and SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineering) for its programs in construction, electronics, and manufacturing respectively. Students’ performance in these nationally-normed tests did not match the competence levels reflected in the grades of the students. Soon it was discovered that the content of these external tests, especially in AIC and SME tests, was not aligned with Missouri Western’s curriculum in certain areas. A decision was made to revert back to the in-house assessment exams in 2003, and performance of students since the reversal in the exit examination policy, seems to have improved. This paper addresses the key issues of the in-house developed departmental exit exams v/s externally-normed assessment tests and compares the pros and cons of the two different assessment systems. Recommendations are made to determine the exit examination strategy in the light of the objectives of the individual programs.


Education is all about student learning. In order to insure that student learning has taken its roots, and the student has learned, educators have to do some kind of testing. In actuality, testing of student learning falls under a broad term, ‘Assessment.’ Assessment can have many elements and forms of testing. Before a student gets out of the halls of learning from the schools of higher education, educators want to make sure that the student, soon to be called a graduate, has mastered the basic knowledge of his/her educational program and has met the goals and objectives of the program. According to the TC2K accreditation criteria of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology1, “Achievement of goals must be demonstrated through a variety of methods, including student outcomes assessment.” One way of demonstrating such achievement of goals is by requiring students to demonstrate proficiency in nationally-normed tests, or some other form of departmentally-developed exit examinations.

Exit testing of students is gaining acceptance at many institutions of higher education because of calls for accountability of education and mandatory assessment requirements of regional accreditation agencies. Exit exams can be internally-developed departmental exams or externally-normed (a.k.a. nationally-normed) tests such as FE/EIT exams. This paper addresses the key issues of the internally-developed departmental exams and externally-normed assessment tests. It compares the pros and cons of the two. Based on the direct knowledge gained by the author from administering internally-developed exit exams and externally-normed tests such as

Varma, V. (2006, June), Internally Developed Departmental Exit Exams V/S Externally Normed Assessment Tests: What We Found Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--804

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